United Begins Selling Boutique Air Flights to Telluride Airport (TEX)
Update 8/28/18: United has confirmed that Boutique Air flights earn miles in the MileagePlus program. Additionally, you'll be able to redeem miles for these flights to TEX, however awards aren't appearing just yet. See this page for current earning rates.
I learned a new airport code today! It's TEX, and while Google Flights will probably insist that you must be trying to type "Texas" in the destination field, TEX is in fact code for Telluride Regional Airport, a tiny field just six miles from Telluride (and its namesake ski area) in Colorado. With an elevation of 9,078 feet, TEX also happens to be the highest airport in North America with commercial service.
That commercial service is operated by the one and only Boutique Air, which is launching nonstop flights to Denver (DEN) beginning Wednesday, August 29, 2018. The new flights will significantly cut down on travel time, bringing the 90-minute commute from Montrose Regional Airport (MTJ) down to just 10 minutes.
Boutique operates a small fleet of Pilatus PC-12 turboprops — inside, they resemble a light private jet, with seating for just eight people.
Interestingly, Boutique Air is partnering with United on this launch — you can even pair TEX flights with an itinerary connecting in Denver. While they aren't yet appearing in Google Flights, you can find DEN-TEX legs on United's site.
Additionally, according to a press release, "Passengers on Boutique Air flights can earn miles and redeem miles for flights through the United MileagePlus frequent flyer program." I haven't been able to find awards either online or via United's phone agents, however, so I've reached out to the airline to confirm. You can book paid itineraries beginning today, though.
As you might expect, these connecting itineraries don't come cheap — at first I figured that had more to do with Boutique's fares, considering the same round-trip flights between New York (LGA) and Denver were pricing at $256.
Boutique's selling its own flights for $294 round-trip, however — as a result, you'll pay $550 when booking these same flights separately, a savings of $257 over United's single-itinerary price.
Pricing discrepancies apart, this is an exciting development. I'm especially intrigued by the prospect of redeeming United miles to book a seat on Boutique Air's flight to TEX, but redemption levels and award availability have yet to be confirmed. Still, with reasonable fares from Denver, I could definitely justify spending $300 for the opportunity to avoid a 13-hour round-trip drive after arriving at DEN, as I'm sure could many other skiers this coming winter season.